Daily Archives: March 24, 2008

March 24, 2008 — Contents

MONDAY MARCH 24 CONTENTS

(1) Editorial: They Got what They Deserved

(2) Annals of “Pacified” Chechnya: Journalists Dropping Like Flies

(3) Russian Feminism & Civility: Two Myths Exploded

(4) Putin’s Pyramid Scheme

(5) Annals of Russian Hypocrisy: Copying American TV

(6) Putin’s Russia Slips on the Ice

NOTE: Robert Amsterdam carries Grigori Pasko’s report on the Kremlin’s ongoing harassment of Oleg Kozlovsky. Over the weekend, only days after admitted it illegally drafted him, it raided his headquarters, seized his property and is seeking to evict him.

NOTE: On Publius Pundit, we report that the wonderful paradise that is Vladimir Putin’s Russia is currently #2 in the world in producing refugees. Talk about a Potemkin village!

NOTE: On Publius Pundit, we report on Andrei Illarionov’s recent interview on Echo of Moscow radio where he revealed new evidence that Vladimir Putin rigged the presidential elections. Your comments as to how the world should best respond to this outrage are most welcome.

NOTE: The Daily Mail reports that another high-profile Kremlin critic may have been murdered. The Times of London says it could be a hoax.

EDITORIAL: They Got What They Deserved

EDITORIAL

They Got What they Deserved

If you were expecting us to express outrage over the arrest last week of Ilya and Alexander Zaslavsky on charges of “industrial espionage” after a raid on the Moscow corporate headquarters of British Petroleum, you were mistaken. We’re delighted and, if anything, outraged that more arrests have not taken place.

The Zaslavskys, whom the Moscow Times described as “two Russian-American brothers” who both “graduated from Oxford Univerisyty” are accused by the FSB (KGB) of “illegally collecting classified commercial information for a number of foreign oil and gas companies to gain advantages over Russian competitors, including in CIS countries.” The MT states that “the arrests appear to signal further pressure on TNK-BP, a 50-50 joint venture between BP and three Russian oligarchs, and threatened to plunge relations with both Great Britain and the United States to even deeper lows.” The MT also reports that “foreign workers employed by BP were warned to stay away, a source inside the company said. The 50-50 Russian-British venture does not fit into the current landscape of majority state control over the energy industry. The State Duma is due to vote Friday on a law enshrining state control over strategic sectors.”

The Zaslavskys got exactly what they deserved, even more so if they were totally innocent of any ridiculous “industrial espionage” charges and therefore allowed to go on with their insidious activities of attempting to form commercial partnerships with dictatorship. In fact, we hope that the Kremlin will go on to arrest every single person physically present in Russia without a Russian passport who is attempting to make money by forging commercial relationships with Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, and send them to Siberia just as was done to Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Simply booting them out of the country is far too good for them.

Let’s be clear: All such people are helping to legitimize a corrupt and illegal regime, helping to funnel wealth towards efforts to fund a new cold war with the West and a harsh new round of draconian cruelty aimed at civil society in Russia. The warning was given loud and clear and long, long ago that anyone from any foreign country attempting to profit from Russia is an idiot blinded by corrupt greed, and fair game for the malignant forces that the control the Kremlin. The sooner they are all cooling their heels in the neo-Soviet Gulag, the better we will be pleased.

The MT reports:

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said late Thursday that the actions of Russian law enforcement should not be politicized. “They are doing their job and doing it well,” he said, adding that charges of economic espionage are deemed serious everywhere. “Everyone is equal before the law.”

So let’s see if we understand you, Mr. Peskov: You’re saying that Russian law enforcement would never, ever take action on a political, rather than a strictly legal, basis? Or, are you saying that if this was in fact done, you’d admit it?

Either way, of course, any sentient human being can only view Peskov’s statement as ludicrous in the neo-Soviet extreme. The Swiss government, as we’ve previously reported, has already made an official finding that Russian law enforcement can and does act contrary to law and for purely political purposes. Anyone who claims it didn’t do so in regard to the British Council is either a liar or a fool. And anyone who thinks that the Kremlin would openly admit acting illegally in a situation such as this needs to have his head examined. Is there one single example of any such admission in the whole history of Putin’s Russia? We think not.

Vladimir Putin lacks the financial and bureaucratic resources to implement full-scale totalitarianism right now. To maintain dictatorial control, he has to rely on threats, and threats require illusions of power greater that reality. As we reported recently on Publius Pundit, Russia is second in the world in producing refugees; this is hardly consistent with a vibrant, successful country such as Putin claims to have erected in Russia. So Putin must suppress information like this using propaganda, and Westerners who invest in Russia play right into his hands (even as they gamble away resources that Russia will, inevitably, either steal or destroy).

The FinRosForum blog reports:

On Thursday, 20 March 2008, authorities carried out extensive raids against dissidents active in Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas in Russia. The police searched the premises and homes of several human rights and opposition activists, confiscating computers, mobile phones, and passports. The raids were directed against activists of the opposition Other Russia coalition and the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Promote Tolerance, the offices of which were sealed.

The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum expresses its utmost concern over the events and demands an immediate end to the repression of human rights and opposition activists. The measures are clearly directed against civic activists opposed to the current regime. There are real fears that the authorities are preparing show trials meant to crush any dissent. The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum will follow events closely and disseminate information about the events in Nizhny Novgorod. Repressive measures against the opposition and the human rights movement have long since ceased to be mere isolated cases, and have to be seen as part of a concerted campaign against free civic society in general.

Try to find news about these events in the Western press. You can’t, but you can easily find reports about certain treacherous Western firms pouring money into Putin’s Russia, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single instance of any such company funding Russia’s democracy movement or, indeed, any form of protest against the Kremlin’s outrages. Such conduct helps Putin to bury the real facts about the brutal crackdown that is underway in neo-Soviet Russia, and hence is part and parcel of it. Anyone from any Western company who invests money in any Russian enterprise other than those designed to safeguard human rights and protest the Kremlin’s barbaric actions is complicit in these events and deserves arrest and relegation to the worst Russian prison that can be found. They is only one word for them: Collaborators. We are well rid of them.

The Moscow Times also reported, for instance, on the front page right under the item about the Zaslavskys, that “PepsiCo said Thursday that it would pay $1.4 billion to buy Lebedyansky, the country’s largest juice manufacturer, in an effort to step up beverage production in Russia, its biggest growth market.” It quoted Michael White, PepsiCo International chief executive, stating “that the companies were committed to investing in Lebedyansky’s brands and building an even brighter future for the company.”

In that case, we can only hope that Mr. White’s arrest will be not long in coming. He’s a collaborator, pure and simple. Then again, just because he’s the “international chief executive” doesn’t mean he’s ever stupid enough to set one hobnailed toe inside the Russian Federation, so Putin may actually never be able to get his hooks into him — perhaps, in other words, he chooses instead to sacrifice even stupider subordinates to that fate. In any case, those who struggle for human rights in Russia had cause last week to stand and loudly cheer for the Kremlin, and to enthusiastically urge it to continue this shameless neo-Soviet purge. For once, the Kremlin is dispensing an utterly pure form of true justice, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

So we say: Attaboy, Mr. Putin. Give ’em one for the Gipper!

Annals of "Pacified" Chechnya: Journalists Dropping like Flies

The New York Times reports:

Two journalists from the restive Caucasus region of Dagestan were killed in separate incidents, Russian news agencies reported. Gadzhi Abashilov, chairman of the Dagestan state broadcasting company and a former television journalist, was shot dead when unidentified gunmen fired on his car in the regional capital, Makhachkala, Tass reported. Mr. Abashilov’s killing came hours after the body of another television journalist, originally from Dagestan, was found in Moscow after he was strangled in his apartment. The Associated Press reported that the victim was Ilyas Shurapayev, of Channel One. More than a dozen journalists have died in Russian contract-style killings since 2000.

The Press Association adds:

A journalist with state-run Russian television has been found dead in a Moscow apartment with a belt around his neck and numerous stab wounds. The victim, Channel One journalist Ilyas Shurpayev, comes from the southern province of Dagestan, which is plagued by clan struggles and criminal violence. Later, unidentified gunmen also shot and killed the head of Dagestan’s provincial state-controlled TV station, and police were looking at a possible link between the two murders.

There is no evidence so far that Mr Shurpayev’s killing was connected to his work, and little chance that his reports on the state station, which is controlled by the Kremlin, would have angered authorities. Russia has increasingly been seen as unsafe for journalists. In 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, who wrote about Russian atrocities in Chechnya, was shot dead in a killing that has never been solved.

Firefighters found Mr Shurpayev’s body in his rented studio apartment on Friday after a fire apparently started after the attack, Channel One spokeswoman Larisa Krymova said. The Investigative Committee, the branch of the prosecutor’s office that announced the murder investigation, said nothing about a possible motive for Shurpayev’s killing. Ms Krymova also declined comment on that aspect of the case. State-run Vesti-24 television cited a concierge in Shurpayev’s building as saying he had called down from his apartment to ask her to let in two young men. The men apparently looked like natives of North Caucasus, the report said. Mr Shurpayev, 32, had worked in Russia’s violence-ridden North Caucasus, which includes Dagestan and war-scarred Chechnya.

Hours before his death, he wrote in his blog that the owners of a newspaper in Dagestan banned a column he wrote from appearing in the paper and instructed its staffers not to mention his name in publications. “Now I am a dissident!” was the headline of the last entry in his web journal.

Annals of Russian "Feminism"

Reuters reports:

Igor Volodin believes vodka is no more harmful than chocolate. He is proud to be the first Russian to produce the spirit in a special women’s version, designed to be sipped with salad after a workout in the gym.

Touted as a glamour product for upwardly mobile women in booming Russia, Damskaya or “Ladies” vodka worries doctors, who fear a fresh wave of female alcoholics in a country already suffering one of the world’s worst drink problems.

The Moscow Serbsky Institute for Social and Forensic Psychiatry says Russia has 2.5 million registered alcoholics, but adds the real figure is seven times higher — more than 10 percent of Russia’s population of 142 million. Yuri Sorokin, a psychologist running a Moscow rehabilitation centre for drug addicts and alcoholics, said 60 percent of those he treats for alcoholism are women, including the wives of Russian millionaires. “I believe that female alcoholism is a huge problem in Russia. I believe it is as huge and hidden as the underwater part of an iceberg,” he said.

Adverts for the new “Ladies” vodka show the elegant, violet-tinted bottle wearing a pleated white skirt which is blown upwards to reveal the label. The images confront commuters on Moscow’s metro, grab the eye on the street and leap from the pages of women’s magazines. “Between us, girls …” runs the slogan on the adverts, which tout the product as an ideal tipple for hearty hen parties. “Women need a drink of their own,” said Volodin, sitting next to an array of his “Ladies” vodkas, which comes in lime, vanilla and almond flavors, or just straight for cocktails. “In Moscow, there are pink taxis for ladies, there are light cigarettes,” he said. “But there was no vodka, and we asked ourselves: ‘Why?’ … More people suffer from diabetes in Russia than from alcoholism, but no one bans chocolate advertisements.”

Sales on Russia’s vodka market are estimated to be worth around $15 billion a year, with a total annual volume of some 2.2 billion liters, Volodin said. Annual market growth in value is seen at 15 percent, he said, thanks to rising incomes and higher sales of premium vodkas like “Ladies”.

Volodin heads the Deyros company, which has been selling strong spirits on the Russian market for more than 10 years. “Ladies”, launched in December, is produced at a distillery in Russia’s second city of St Petersburg and retails at around 300 roubles ($12.5) in upmarket shops in big cities. Volodin is targeting successful, well-educated, married women with money. “Of course, $12 per bottle is too expensive for a village woman,” Volodin said, forecasting March sales of “Ladies” at 115,000 bottles and putting the 2008 full-year figure at over 2 million. “But we can’t make bad vodka for women.” Volodin says his vodka is pure and free of by-products, like fusel oils, which can cause a heavy hangover. He says because of its mellow taste, it can be taken with salads and other light meals, even by those regularly working out in gyms.

Russia, buoyed by windfall revenues for oil, gas and metals exports, has enjoyed its biggest economic boom in a generation. Wages in the cash-laden economy have rocketed. But high salaries and growing consumption of expensive alcohol have not led to moderation in drinking, said psychologist Sorokin. The joblessness and despair of Russia’s wild capitalism of the 1990s have now been replaced by the psychological vacuum of the newly-rich, he said.

Olga, a woman in her 20s, was buying a bottle of “Ladies” in an expensive supermarket in Moscow for a party with her friends. “I saw the ad in the metro and decided to taste it,” she said. “I just loved the design.” Sorokin said he expected an influx of new patients in about six months. “When such strong marketing experts are involved, I will never be jobless,” he sighed.

Vladimir Putin is certainly correct to express outrage that any in the West would dare to think of Russia as being “a little bit savage.” The Times of London has more on the feminism front in enlightened, sophisticated Russia:

Blondes famously have more fun, but a jealous world has long joked about their intellectual limitations. Now blondes in Russia are fighting the bimbo image by forming their own political party. Organisers insist that the Party of Blondes will establish itself as Russia’s newest political force by recruiting 50,000 members within weeks. The blonde ambition, they say, is to challenge Dmitri Medvedev for the presidency of Russia at the next election in 2012. “The Party of Blondes is for blondes, those who love blondes, and those who are blonde inside,” general-secretary Marina Voloshinova told The Times. Confusingly, she is a brunette.

“I dyed my hair blonde once but it was so awful that I decided never to do it again. I just have to stay blonde inside,” she said. “Blonde is not just a hair colour, it’s in your brain and your heart. Blondes accept life in a more lively way, they really have more fun.”

The idea started as an internet community, the Club of Blonde Lovers, that evolved from a forum for jokes into a discussion about the many problems facing Russian women. “We decided to make it more serious and to form a political party. Blondes are very attractive and the Party of Blondes is a way to gain attention for issues facing all women,” said Ms Voloshinova, a 39-year-old economist. “We want to make it easier for women to start small businesses because that is where they can develop themselves, and children’s education is a major question. It is free on paper but everybody knows that you have to pay under the table to get your child into a good school.” She added: “We will try to have beautiful blondes as party representatives. Unfortunately, a lot of our beauties have left Russia and we have to work hard to make life more convenient for women so that they will stay and be beautiful here. Men will vote for a beautiful woman, but we have to convince them that she is not only beautiful but also clever and a good leader.”

The party launched three weeks ago and claims 5,000 members. It needs 50,000 plus branches in half of Russia’s regions to gain official registration. “We will be ready by May 31, which is the Day of Blondes,” Ms Voloshinova said. The party is seeking support from famous blonde Russians, such as Valentina Matviyenko, the governor of St Pertersburg, Maria Sharapova, the tennis star, and Ksenia Sobchak, the “It” girl. “They don’t have to become members, just sympathise with our ideas. To be a real political force we need to develop our own leaders, and there are a lot of talented women in the regions.” Non-blondes, including men, are also welcome. Indeed, the current leader of the nascent women’s party is a man, Sergei Kushnerov. “He founded the Blonder Lovers’ Club so he became our leader, but that may change when we are more organised. Anyway, he has dyed his hair blond,” said Ms Voloshinova. She insists that the Party of Blondes is not a joke and that it is serious about capturing the Kremlin in a country where ultra-nationalists and Communists ran in this month’s presidential election. Mr Medvedev may even have a fifth columnist in his camp – his wife Svetlana is blonde. “No other party in Russia represents women’s rights. We want to teach women to love themselves and to believe that they can be all that they want to be,” she said.

“We will have a blonde president and if we find a great woman leader who is not blonde, we will make her dye her hair. To become the President of Russia, every woman is willing to dye her hair.”

Putin’s Pyramid Scheme

An artist’s rendering of the latest neo-Soviet Russian atrocity


The Telegraph reports:

Vladimir Putin is to fulfil an unrealised dream of Josef Stalin’s by creating a grandiose state cemetery. In a corner of northern Moscow bulldozers began churning the earth his week in a section of wasteland where Mr Putin and Stalin, the dictator he is said to revere, could one day be laid side by side.

The Federal Military Memorial Cemetery, its designers boast, will be Russia’s answer to America’s Arlington. Arguably the most ambitious architectural project undertaken since the fall of the Soviet Union, it remains to be seen whether the cemetery, due to be completed by 2010, will become the landmark the Kremlin hopes. There is no doubt that the project encapsulates the Putin era, which officially ends on May 7, though the president is likely to remain Russia’s most powerful man in his new job as prime minister.

The cemetery will be a testament to extravagance, a piece of architectural monumentalism intended to reflect the glory of a resurgent Russia. For the critics, it is also a worrying sign of the Kremlin’s flirtation with its Communist past. The design marks a return to the style many assumed had gone with the end of the Soviet Union. Drawings show that the 132 acre site will feature obelisks, golden statues of figures from Russia’s past and friezes of workers in heroic poses. It is architecture from the era of heroic realism and a style of propaganda favoured by both Stalin and Hitler – a fact that has dismayed a dwindling number of liberal architects fighting the current trend of Soviet nostalgia.

The concept of a national cemetery was resurrected in the early 1990s by a state-owned body called Mosproject-4. The designer Alexander Taranin said he wanted to create a minimalistic cemetery that gave a quiet and honest reflection of Russia. “We tried to show the difficult road the country has travelled while still being optimistic about the future,” he said. The Yeltsin government ignored the project but the plans gained traction after Mr Putin came to power in 2000. But as the liberalism of the 1990s gave way to Putin’s authoritarianism, Mosproject-4 fell out of fashion. Russia’s generals felt that a Soviet theme would be fitting for the final resting place of Russia’s presidents and national heroes. Mosproject was usurped by the Combine of Monumental Decorative Art, a turgid Soviet-era state institution that was again in the Kremlin’s favour.

Its chief architect, Sergei Goryaev, was only too happy to oblige the generals – even if it meant aping the neo-classical style of the past that had done so much to give Moscow its oppressive atmosphere.

“What is oppressive to you is solemn and glorious to us,” he said. “The Soviet empire’s style has many beautiful examples which are among the highlights of 20th century architecture anywhere.”

An updated funeral ceremony for heads of state is also being developed that restores some of the militaristic traditions of the past. When Mr Putin dies, his corpse will be transported to the cemetery’s pantheon in an armoured personnel carrier before being laid to rest, Mr Goryaev said. He added that it was possible that leading figures from the Soviet era, such as Stalin, could be reburied in the cemetery.

It is possible that Lenin could be moved there as well.

Putin’s Pyramid Scheme

An artist’s rendering of the latest neo-Soviet Russian atrocity


The Telegraph reports:

Vladimir Putin is to fulfil an unrealised dream of Josef Stalin’s by creating a grandiose state cemetery. In a corner of northern Moscow bulldozers began churning the earth his week in a section of wasteland where Mr Putin and Stalin, the dictator he is said to revere, could one day be laid side by side.

The Federal Military Memorial Cemetery, its designers boast, will be Russia’s answer to America’s Arlington. Arguably the most ambitious architectural project undertaken since the fall of the Soviet Union, it remains to be seen whether the cemetery, due to be completed by 2010, will become the landmark the Kremlin hopes. There is no doubt that the project encapsulates the Putin era, which officially ends on May 7, though the president is likely to remain Russia’s most powerful man in his new job as prime minister.

The cemetery will be a testament to extravagance, a piece of architectural monumentalism intended to reflect the glory of a resurgent Russia. For the critics, it is also a worrying sign of the Kremlin’s flirtation with its Communist past. The design marks a return to the style many assumed had gone with the end of the Soviet Union. Drawings show that the 132 acre site will feature obelisks, golden statues of figures from Russia’s past and friezes of workers in heroic poses. It is architecture from the era of heroic realism and a style of propaganda favoured by both Stalin and Hitler – a fact that has dismayed a dwindling number of liberal architects fighting the current trend of Soviet nostalgia.

The concept of a national cemetery was resurrected in the early 1990s by a state-owned body called Mosproject-4. The designer Alexander Taranin said he wanted to create a minimalistic cemetery that gave a quiet and honest reflection of Russia. “We tried to show the difficult road the country has travelled while still being optimistic about the future,” he said. The Yeltsin government ignored the project but the plans gained traction after Mr Putin came to power in 2000. But as the liberalism of the 1990s gave way to Putin’s authoritarianism, Mosproject-4 fell out of fashion. Russia’s generals felt that a Soviet theme would be fitting for the final resting place of Russia’s presidents and national heroes. Mosproject was usurped by the Combine of Monumental Decorative Art, a turgid Soviet-era state institution that was again in the Kremlin’s favour.

Its chief architect, Sergei Goryaev, was only too happy to oblige the generals – even if it meant aping the neo-classical style of the past that had done so much to give Moscow its oppressive atmosphere.

“What is oppressive to you is solemn and glorious to us,” he said. “The Soviet empire’s style has many beautiful examples which are among the highlights of 20th century architecture anywhere.”

An updated funeral ceremony for heads of state is also being developed that restores some of the militaristic traditions of the past. When Mr Putin dies, his corpse will be transported to the cemetery’s pantheon in an armoured personnel carrier before being laid to rest, Mr Goryaev said. He added that it was possible that leading figures from the Soviet era, such as Stalin, could be reburied in the cemetery.

It is possible that Lenin could be moved there as well.

Putin’s Pyramid Scheme

An artist’s rendering of the latest neo-Soviet Russian atrocity


The Telegraph reports:

Vladimir Putin is to fulfil an unrealised dream of Josef Stalin’s by creating a grandiose state cemetery. In a corner of northern Moscow bulldozers began churning the earth his week in a section of wasteland where Mr Putin and Stalin, the dictator he is said to revere, could one day be laid side by side.

The Federal Military Memorial Cemetery, its designers boast, will be Russia’s answer to America’s Arlington. Arguably the most ambitious architectural project undertaken since the fall of the Soviet Union, it remains to be seen whether the cemetery, due to be completed by 2010, will become the landmark the Kremlin hopes. There is no doubt that the project encapsulates the Putin era, which officially ends on May 7, though the president is likely to remain Russia’s most powerful man in his new job as prime minister.

The cemetery will be a testament to extravagance, a piece of architectural monumentalism intended to reflect the glory of a resurgent Russia. For the critics, it is also a worrying sign of the Kremlin’s flirtation with its Communist past. The design marks a return to the style many assumed had gone with the end of the Soviet Union. Drawings show that the 132 acre site will feature obelisks, golden statues of figures from Russia’s past and friezes of workers in heroic poses. It is architecture from the era of heroic realism and a style of propaganda favoured by both Stalin and Hitler – a fact that has dismayed a dwindling number of liberal architects fighting the current trend of Soviet nostalgia.

The concept of a national cemetery was resurrected in the early 1990s by a state-owned body called Mosproject-4. The designer Alexander Taranin said he wanted to create a minimalistic cemetery that gave a quiet and honest reflection of Russia. “We tried to show the difficult road the country has travelled while still being optimistic about the future,” he said. The Yeltsin government ignored the project but the plans gained traction after Mr Putin came to power in 2000. But as the liberalism of the 1990s gave way to Putin’s authoritarianism, Mosproject-4 fell out of fashion. Russia’s generals felt that a Soviet theme would be fitting for the final resting place of Russia’s presidents and national heroes. Mosproject was usurped by the Combine of Monumental Decorative Art, a turgid Soviet-era state institution that was again in the Kremlin’s favour.

Its chief architect, Sergei Goryaev, was only too happy to oblige the generals – even if it meant aping the neo-classical style of the past that had done so much to give Moscow its oppressive atmosphere.

“What is oppressive to you is solemn and glorious to us,” he said. “The Soviet empire’s style has many beautiful examples which are among the highlights of 20th century architecture anywhere.”

An updated funeral ceremony for heads of state is also being developed that restores some of the militaristic traditions of the past. When Mr Putin dies, his corpse will be transported to the cemetery’s pantheon in an armoured personnel carrier before being laid to rest, Mr Goryaev said. He added that it was possible that leading figures from the Soviet era, such as Stalin, could be reburied in the cemetery.

It is possible that Lenin could be moved there as well.

Putin’s Pyramid Scheme

An artist’s rendering of the latest neo-Soviet Russian atrocity


The Telegraph reports:

Vladimir Putin is to fulfil an unrealised dream of Josef Stalin’s by creating a grandiose state cemetery. In a corner of northern Moscow bulldozers began churning the earth his week in a section of wasteland where Mr Putin and Stalin, the dictator he is said to revere, could one day be laid side by side.

The Federal Military Memorial Cemetery, its designers boast, will be Russia’s answer to America’s Arlington. Arguably the most ambitious architectural project undertaken since the fall of the Soviet Union, it remains to be seen whether the cemetery, due to be completed by 2010, will become the landmark the Kremlin hopes. There is no doubt that the project encapsulates the Putin era, which officially ends on May 7, though the president is likely to remain Russia’s most powerful man in his new job as prime minister.

The cemetery will be a testament to extravagance, a piece of architectural monumentalism intended to reflect the glory of a resurgent Russia. For the critics, it is also a worrying sign of the Kremlin’s flirtation with its Communist past. The design marks a return to the style many assumed had gone with the end of the Soviet Union. Drawings show that the 132 acre site will feature obelisks, golden statues of figures from Russia’s past and friezes of workers in heroic poses. It is architecture from the era of heroic realism and a style of propaganda favoured by both Stalin and Hitler – a fact that has dismayed a dwindling number of liberal architects fighting the current trend of Soviet nostalgia.

The concept of a national cemetery was resurrected in the early 1990s by a state-owned body called Mosproject-4. The designer Alexander Taranin said he wanted to create a minimalistic cemetery that gave a quiet and honest reflection of Russia. “We tried to show the difficult road the country has travelled while still being optimistic about the future,” he said. The Yeltsin government ignored the project but the plans gained traction after Mr Putin came to power in 2000. But as the liberalism of the 1990s gave way to Putin’s authoritarianism, Mosproject-4 fell out of fashion. Russia’s generals felt that a Soviet theme would be fitting for the final resting place of Russia’s presidents and national heroes. Mosproject was usurped by the Combine of Monumental Decorative Art, a turgid Soviet-era state institution that was again in the Kremlin’s favour.

Its chief architect, Sergei Goryaev, was only too happy to oblige the generals – even if it meant aping the neo-classical style of the past that had done so much to give Moscow its oppressive atmosphere.

“What is oppressive to you is solemn and glorious to us,” he said. “The Soviet empire’s style has many beautiful examples which are among the highlights of 20th century architecture anywhere.”

An updated funeral ceremony for heads of state is also being developed that restores some of the militaristic traditions of the past. When Mr Putin dies, his corpse will be transported to the cemetery’s pantheon in an armoured personnel carrier before being laid to rest, Mr Goryaev said. He added that it was possible that leading figures from the Soviet era, such as Stalin, could be reburied in the cemetery.

It is possible that Lenin could be moved there as well.

Putin’s Pyramid Scheme

An artist’s rendering of the latest neo-Soviet Russian atrocity


The Telegraph reports:

Vladimir Putin is to fulfil an unrealised dream of Josef Stalin’s by creating a grandiose state cemetery. In a corner of northern Moscow bulldozers began churning the earth his week in a section of wasteland where Mr Putin and Stalin, the dictator he is said to revere, could one day be laid side by side.

The Federal Military Memorial Cemetery, its designers boast, will be Russia’s answer to America’s Arlington. Arguably the most ambitious architectural project undertaken since the fall of the Soviet Union, it remains to be seen whether the cemetery, due to be completed by 2010, will become the landmark the Kremlin hopes. There is no doubt that the project encapsulates the Putin era, which officially ends on May 7, though the president is likely to remain Russia’s most powerful man in his new job as prime minister.

The cemetery will be a testament to extravagance, a piece of architectural monumentalism intended to reflect the glory of a resurgent Russia. For the critics, it is also a worrying sign of the Kremlin’s flirtation with its Communist past. The design marks a return to the style many assumed had gone with the end of the Soviet Union. Drawings show that the 132 acre site will feature obelisks, golden statues of figures from Russia’s past and friezes of workers in heroic poses. It is architecture from the era of heroic realism and a style of propaganda favoured by both Stalin and Hitler – a fact that has dismayed a dwindling number of liberal architects fighting the current trend of Soviet nostalgia.

The concept of a national cemetery was resurrected in the early 1990s by a state-owned body called Mosproject-4. The designer Alexander Taranin said he wanted to create a minimalistic cemetery that gave a quiet and honest reflection of Russia. “We tried to show the difficult road the country has travelled while still being optimistic about the future,” he said. The Yeltsin government ignored the project but the plans gained traction after Mr Putin came to power in 2000. But as the liberalism of the 1990s gave way to Putin’s authoritarianism, Mosproject-4 fell out of fashion. Russia’s generals felt that a Soviet theme would be fitting for the final resting place of Russia’s presidents and national heroes. Mosproject was usurped by the Combine of Monumental Decorative Art, a turgid Soviet-era state institution that was again in the Kremlin’s favour.

Its chief architect, Sergei Goryaev, was only too happy to oblige the generals – even if it meant aping the neo-classical style of the past that had done so much to give Moscow its oppressive atmosphere.

“What is oppressive to you is solemn and glorious to us,” he said. “The Soviet empire’s style has many beautiful examples which are among the highlights of 20th century architecture anywhere.”

An updated funeral ceremony for heads of state is also being developed that restores some of the militaristic traditions of the past. When Mr Putin dies, his corpse will be transported to the cemetery’s pantheon in an armoured personnel carrier before being laid to rest, Mr Goryaev said. He added that it was possible that leading figures from the Soviet era, such as Stalin, could be reburied in the cemetery.

It is possible that Lenin could be moved there as well.

Annals of Russian Hypocrisy

It’s always amusing to hear Russians haughtily condemning American culture even as they shamelessly copy it. The Hollywood Reporter has details (click through to watch a translated excerpt of the show):

Most of you may think you don’t know big-haired Dasha Bukina or her harassed shoe salesman husband Gena Bukin. You probably won’t fare much better with the names of their two high-octane teenage kids, Sveta and Roma. But if you’re a Russian TV viewer, you’ve most likely already met them: They are Russia’s reincarnations of the Bundy family from “Married … With Children.” It’s actually a bit scary to watch the Bukins gathered on the family couch working out yet another crisis — it’s Peg and Al and Bud and Kelly down to the tiniest detail. Except for the language, of course.

But if you were to watch all 200-plus episodes that have been adapted from the original scripts by Sony Pictures Television International so far, you’d begin to see many subtle changes made to fit Russian cultural nuances and viewer tastes. Jeff Lerner, senior vp development and current programs, international production, at SPTI, says it would be impossible simply to cut and paste the scripts for Russian consumption. Adapting existing formats is nothing new for SPTI, which also has produced local versions of “The Nanny” and “Who’s the Boss?” in Russia. In fact, SPTI makes local versions of U.S. shows all over the world. And the one big lesson learned is that many small and almost invisible changes must be made along the way in order to slot the shows seamlessly into the cultural mix.

More Russian Sports Humiliation


At the World Figure Skating Championships in Goteborg, Sweden, last week, Russia was nearly shut entirely out of the medal count.

No medal in the nation’s beloved pairs event. Even more brutally, the gold-medal team included a Ukrainian woman who had defected to Germany.

No medal in men’s or ladies’ individual events.

Russia’s only medal was a lowly bronze in ice dancing.

Ouch.

No wonder Putin’s Russia fought so hard to get the 2014 winter Olympics — how else can it hope to get another gold medal, except by rigging the results on home ice.